POLITICAL leaders and maritime figures participated in the 30th annual commemoration and unveiling of the revamped National Merchant Navy War Memorial in Canberra.

Defence minister Linda Reynolds attended the event, as did representatives of unions and industry groups.

Senator Reynolds unveiled the new plaques and welcomed the descendants and elderly mariners and their supporters in attendance. 

The Merchant Navy Memorial on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin commemorates the contribution made by the Australian Merchant Navy during World War I and World War II.

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“Today we pay tribute to those men, and their families,” Senator Reynolds said.

“We honour their courage, bravery, service and sacrifice. I congratulate the Board of the Merchant Navy War Memorial Fund and the National Capital Authority on your cooperation in completing this meaningful work.”

Senator Reynolds said merchant sailors were “simply ordinary men”.

“But when World War One broke out, and then again during World War Two, their daily workplace became a bloodied battlefield — and merchant ships became a lucrative target,” she said.

Maritime Industry Australia’s Alison Saunders represented MIAL at the event.

MIAL chief executive Teresa Lloyd said it was appropriate to honour those who sacrificed their lives.

“MIAL laid a wreath in honour of those of the Australian Merchant Navy who gave their lives for their country and have no grave but the sea,” Ms Lloyd said.

“MIAL members P&O Maritime and the Australian Maritime College were also in attendance and we would like to acknowledge Alan Tait from the Australian Mariners’ Welfare Society for his work in this area.

Ms Lloyd thanked the Board of the Merchant Navy War Memorial Fund for their efforts on behalf of the Australian Merchant Navy. Merchant ships carried vital supplies and troops but were vulnerable to enemy attack.

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